TOLEDO — A roomful of Toledo, Siletz and Logsden residents packed Toledo City Hall on Monday night to tell the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality what they thought about the Georgia-Pacific Mill in Toledo going forward with the Juno Project, which would see 100,000 tons of garbage per year turned into paper boxes.
The project would salvage fiber from solid waste, converting that fiber through a new advanced material recycling system to be installed at the pulp mill. The process would save that material from being thrown into a landfill.
“It’s a new piece of equipment,” said Gary Andes with the DEQ. “The emissions are very small, particularly in relation to what the mill emits at this point doing other stuff.”
Andes explained the mill has to acquire a permit from the DEQ to operate the new technology, which many east county residents protested against during the public hearing Monday night. Air and water pollution, as well as toxic emissions, were concerns a few brought up after the DEQ’s presentation.
“I’m concerned about the unknown and untested levels of the compounds,” said Betty Kamikawa, a Toledo City Councilor. “You want to tell us it’s safe, but it’s unknown. You’re not telling us what it is because you don’t even know yet.”
Kamikawa said 501 hazardous pollutants were pumped into the air regularly in Toledo already, and said she knew too many people who are diagnosed with cancer, respiratory illnesses and other ailments in the City of Toledo, some of them kids. She and other Toledo, Siletz and Logsden residents linked Georgia-Pacific’s activity in Toledo with high levels of these diseases in the east part of the county.
“DEQ does what’s allowed by the government,” Kamikawa said. “We need to tell our government we’ve had enough. We need to require stricter levels on all of these things and there’s no more grandfathering in of these.”
Not everyone at the public hearing was concerned about the emission levels or chemicals. Citing job creation and corporate responsibility, some voiced support for the mill’s latest project.
“I’ve found the mill to be a responsible operator and sensitive to it’s impact on the environment,” said Billie Jo Smith, the former mayor of Toledo. “I am particularly supportive of the Juno Project because it will improve the sustainability of our forests by recovering fiber that is currently unusable for reuse.”
Smith added the project was cause for some initial concerns about Juno Project air emissions.
“I find it assuring the low levels of the new emissions will fall within the limits of the permit GP has,” Smith said. “I know the mill invested millions of dollars towards making a significant reduction to their air emissions during the 1990s. That was huge, and it’s made a huge difference for our town.”
DEQ documents about the public hearing state the new recycling system would generate 5.63 tons a year of particulate matter, and the company doesn’t plan to exceed the existing plant site emission limits. The permit the company is currently applying for would require the GP mill to monitor pollutants using federally-approved monitoring practices and standards. The permit would also require the mill to test the new system to verify the emission levels.